Running the Oromahoe Traverse

and killing characters on the run

Oromahoe Traverse Paihia

I’m on a bit of a roll with my running around Paihia series. Here’s a good, one way, one hour run. The Oromahoe is a ridge-line run through the Opua Forest which ends in Paihia. It’s a little over 6km one way, with a few short, sharp ups and downs. You can’t get lost.

I went early for a gorgeous start to the morning. There are a few glimpses of view through the trees, but no real lookouts to the spectacular Bay of Islands, tantalisingly out of sight below. It is a lovely feeling, running along the tops, a sense that sooner or later you’ll have the big sweep down but for now you’re king of the hill. Opua Forest is regenerating. It’s mostly manuka and scrappy young mataī, some punga, with occasional rimu and miro beginning to get some weight. Also a conifer with leaves that looked like celery that I had to look up: tanekaha, which translates as “strong man”, used extensively by Māori historically for its strength and flexibility. My plan is to meet a new tree every run. I feel very positive about these young forests that have been reclaimed from farmland or fire. In twenty years the tanekaha and hardwoods will have taken control and this forest will be rich.

I find running like this, on an isolated track through a forest, is the best therapy in the world for jumbled thinking. You go in with a messy head and come out clean.

I ran the first five minutes with a spinning gyroscope in my head. It’s the stuff that most of us have, all the time: mundane mumbles, angst, plans for a glorious future, conversations gone or anticipated. But it’s hard to think about all of this stuff when you have to concentrate on where to put your feet. Trail running is an extraordinary business when your think of the physiology involved in getting one foot in front of the other on an bumpy track with flickering bright sunlight coming through the trees. While your brain is busy with all that it’s no wonder the mind-chatter falls away. I tend to get a single focus after about five minutes. Right now I’m writing a book and as I ran I zoomed in on that. What with the putting the feet in the right place and watching for low branches and listening to the birds, there wasn’t much room in my head for more than one problem. So here it is: in my book I’m stuck with the beginning and with one particular character. But as I ran and my focus narrowed, the answer came to me, clear as the splash of a body falling into the deep.

I’m going to kill him off, right at the start. In the very first paragraphs, a main character will die. It’s a bold move, and fixes a bug that’s been nagging me for months. I’ll put a link here when the book is published and (haha) get some feedback as to whether death was the right move. As I ran I threw his body overboard. In less than 100 paces, I’d killed my character.

I ran on, avoiding the roots and the slippery bits, jumping piles of fallen leaves and a pudding shaped rock, and thought I should write a blog post about focused thinking when running, so I wrote the blog post over the next few hundred steps and then spent a few steps thinking about writing a blog post about thinking about writing a blog post and before long I was in the infinite monkey cage. But that disappeared into a black hole and when I went into my head to pull out the next thing to think about, there was nothing there.

There was the track, a bit of a hill, a mossy patch of luminescent green. Some gorse. Is gorse OK these days? I instinctively think to rip it out, but some say it acts as a nursery for natives. More track. For the next hour I concentrated on putting my feet on the path, in the little steps on the steep bits where feet have gone before me, straddling where rain has cut rivulets in the soil. Looking at the trees. Hearing the birds. There was nothing in my head at all.


From Paihia the Oromahoe Traverse about twenty minutes drive. Get a lift to the start of the trail, which is about 10 minutes drive up Oromahoe Road into the Opua forest. If you run from Opua you’ll have a nasty slog up a metal road. Look out for the sign board on your right for the start of the trail (picture above).

An incentive for the driver is the short but magnificent Opua Kauri Walk, a few minutes further along the road on the left. Everyone wins.

The run is about 6km and took me just under an hour. Whoever you are, you’ll probably be faster. It ends at the end of School Road in Paihia, which is a 5 minute run to the beach.

Of course you can walk it, too! They say it takes 2 1/2 hours, which sounds really slow.

If you want to make a loop of it, start at the Paihia end, at School Road, and go counter clockwise –  if you can put up with running down the metal road for nearly 5km (not me!) you can meet up with the lovely run along the coast back to Paihia (but not at high tide).

Author: Cristina Sanders Blog

Novelist, trail runner, book reviewer and blogger.

2 thoughts on “Running the Oromahoe Traverse”

  1. Absolutely hilarious Chris – I shared it because I know EXACTLY where the mind wanders! But I wouldn’t be killing off characters in my head while running – you’re brave…that would translate to me doing myself in on the trail! Have shared – too good not to!

    Liked by 1 person

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